What are you reading?

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Occasionally, I write a post in which I ask this question, and it has been some time, so I wanted to ask all of you again: what are you currently reading?

I am reading Aggravated Momentum by Didi Oviatt;

In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson;

Surrender, New York by Caleb Carr;

and rereading for classes that I teach at the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College:

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

and Dracula by Bram Stoker.

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I wish Happy Reading to all!

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No One Is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts: A Review

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This spring I had the great pleasure of attending a reading and book signing by Stephanie Powell Watts for her newly release novel No One Is Coming to Save Us. I have been remiss in putting this review up, so I will remedy that situation now.

First I want to say that this book is one of the most important American novels of the last 200 years. As a professor of English Literature, I do not say that lightly. This is a book that will, I hope, be read and reread and taught in college classes for many years to come.

It would be easy to say that her novel is a treatment of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, but it is not. Watts treats similar themes as Fitzgerald does, but she focuses not on the lives of the idle wealthy but on those of poor and working class African-Americans. These are ideas that inform most of humanity, and Watts is brilliant in her take on them. Her writing is lyrical, witty, compelling, and deeply moving.

Watts shows people who want a home and have hopes of family and relationships. She shows the depths of human desires and feelings. This book belongs on the syllabus of those teaching American literature, and it should be read by anyone interested in a deep and moving examination of the souls of human beings.

If we are looking at books in a five star system, then I give this not just five stars but five shining stars.

Please read this novel!

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Favorite Horror Films of the 1930s: A Series Revisited: Dracula

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When I first considered doing an examination of my favorite horror movies, I thought that going decade by decade would be sufficient, but I realized that some periods have far more excellent films than others.  A simple examination of 2-4 movies from the 1930s will not work, so I am going to look at one film at a time for that decade. I will begin with Dracula, a film I love, and which I have taught in college classes such as Literature and Film and Gothic and Horror.  I also hold the novel to be an excellent and very important book.

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Dracula, made in 1931, and released for Valentine’s Day–a nice touch–was a huge success and established Bela Lugosi as a top box office star. This production was itself based on the very successful theatrical play Dracula by Hamilton Deane and James Balderston. Stoker’s novel did not see great success during his life, but after his death and the success of the play, it became one of the best selling novels of the 20th Century–worldwide.

Carl Laemmle Jr, capitalized on the story’s growing popularity and produced the movie.  Tod Browning, who had directed Lon Chaney Sr. in several movies, directed this piece. This film is highly atmospheric with a Gothic set and influenced by German Expressionism. Lugosi was brilliant with his authentic Hungarian accent and menacing presence. His performance and voice set the standard for the image of Dracula and vampires for decades to come. Dracula was a sensation and terrified people; today’s audience would probably find it slow and not at all frightening, but that reflects our jaded views that have been glutted with gore as the staple ingredient of contemporary horror.  This film depended on story telling, atmosphere, and acting. The film’s success created an era of classic horror films through the 1930s and part of the 1940s with Universal studios leading the way.

Additionally, Dracula is generally accepted by most film critics as one of the best horror films made.  I certainly consider it to be one of the best and most important.

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It is an interesting and little known detail of film history that in addition to the English language version, Universal also made a Spanish language film at the same time.  The  two films shared the same sets, and the same basic scripts, but with different actors and a different director: George Melford directed, and Carlos Villarías stared as Dracula.  While not as well known, an argument can be made that this is a better film than the more established English language version.  If you ever have the opportunity to see it, I recommend that you do.

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Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I by Charles F. French is available for purchase on Amazon either as an ebook or a print book!

Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview

R.I.P. Frank Delaney

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The literary world lost an important figure in late February. Frank Delaney, (October 29, 1942-February 21, 2017) the novelist and historian from Ireland, died at the age of 74. Delaney, who loved history and the writings of James Joyce, had a website, Frank Delaney’s site, in which he spoke of both literature and had podcasts, viewed by millions, about Joyce’s novel Ulysses.

Delaney, was also an accomplished novelist with a long list of books to his credit; among them are Ireland, A Novel, Shannon, Tipperary, and The Matchmaker of Kenmare. Delaney’s passing has impact on me because I have used his novel Ireland, A Novel in my Irish  Literature class at the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. The students, all of whom are adults, usually enjoy this brilliant work that incorporates both the history of Ireland with a well woven family saga. It is deeply informative and moving; Delaney speaks to the larger historical issues and events that make up Irish history as well as showing the deep connections of family and story-telling within the texts. If anyone has interest in Ireland, I recommend this book with my highest regards.

To Frank Delaney, I hope wherever you are that you have an audience to hear your wonderful tales! And may you Rest In Peace.

 

A Book Reading/Signing of Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I by Charles F. French at the Muhlenberg College ‘Berg Bookshop

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I am very happy to announce that the next reading/signing of my horror novel Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I will be Thursday 12/15/16 from Noon to 2 P.M. at the ‘Berg Bookshop at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA.

If you are in or near the Lehigh Valley, PA, please consider attending.  The campus of Muhlenberg College is beautiful, and the Valley is lovely, especially in the winter season.

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Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I by Charles F. French is available for purchase on Amazon either as an ebook or a print book!

Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview

A New Semester!

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Summer is close to ending, and autumn will soon be here, a wondrous season of change.  Among those movements are the leaving behind of summer activities and the return of the academic school year.  The first day of the semester at both schools where I teach, Lehigh University and Muhlenberg College, has arrived. I had a busy summer and taught summer classes, so this is not following on a long break, but I always am excited at the start of a new collegiate year.

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I often write, in this blog, about writing, and that is my other passion, but teaching is still my main field, my main vocation, and my driving force in life. I love to teach, and this semester I have a wide variety of courses; among them are the following: First Year Composition, Renaissance Imagination, Gothic and Horror, and Modern American Fiction. These courses reflect some, but certainly not all, of my areas of study and interest.

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I always feel blessed that I am able to incorporate my love of reading into a field in which I lead discussions about this material. In fact, I am extraordinarily lucky, because I love my work, and I know there are far too many people who do not have this good fortune.

I also love that I have a wide range of students in my classes.  I teach both traditional-age students and non-traditional adult students.  As someone who was an adult student myself, a story for another post, I embrace having adults in my classes.

So, onward with the semester!

Quotations on the Importance of Education

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“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

                                                                                 Nelson Mandela

 

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“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”

                                                                                  Socrates

 

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“Education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow. Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human.”

                                                                                Malala Yousafzai